Ravens Q&A with Mike Preston

Baltimore Sun columnist Mike Preston answers a selection of reader questions after the Ravens' 31-28 overtime loss to the Washington Redskins on Sunday at FedEx Field.

Frank: The Ravens firing Cam Cameron was long overdue. Why did it take so long? Do you think it was the right move?


Mike Preston: The Ravens organization is not a knee-jerk reaction organization.  Cam Cameron was part of the organization and had experienced success over his tenure with the franchise.

Cameron was the offensive coordinator when the team, with a rookie quarterback, won a playoff game and then won at least one playoff game for four straight years. He was the OC last season when the Ravens were a dropped pass away from the Super Bowl.  That is why this move took so long.

As for it being the right move, that question will be answered with time. The Ravens are moving to Jim Caldwell, who has never called plays in the NFL. This is a chance for Caldwell to develop that ability, and show he should have the job next year or allow the Ravens to bring in another offensive coordinator.

Andy in Hagerstown: We've seen this before in sports: season-ending collapses that force teams to make changes and top-to-bottom reviews of an organization. Are you starting to see a downhill roll that the Ravens may not be capable of getting themselves out of?


Mike Preston: The Ravens are dealing with a lot of internal issues right now. There was the story a couple of weeks ago about players complaining about having to practice in pads after the bye week.  A conversation between the players and Harbaugh reportedly led to a change from that decision.

Could you imagine that happening if this team was coached by Chuck Noll, Tom Landry, or even Bill Belichick? Absolutely not.  

I think the move to fire Cameron is Harbaugh trying to show that this is his team, because Cameron did not follow his coaching instructions. He can not get rid of players like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, who really run this team, so Cameron is gone right now.  If Harbaugh can get things moving in the direction he wants, he thinks he can save the season and make a strong run into the playoffs.  This is going to be a tall order with the remaining schedule, but anything is possible.

Keith Oberdick: At what point do we wake up to the fact that Joe Flacco is an average quarterback and at least bring in someone to challenge him for the starting job?

Mike Preston: Wake up to the fact that Joe Flacco is an average quarterback?  I have seen Flacco as an average quarterback for quite some time.  A few years ago I thought the ceiling for Flacco might be as high as becoming another Tony Romo, and nothing has changed my opinion. They can make all of the throws, but when things are breaking down around them, the baby gets thrown out with the bath water. Flacco, like Romo, has a history of throwing up prayers when the pressure is getting to him. Also, both quarterbacks have a tendency to show a lack of pocket awareness which leads to sacks and fumbles. When the protection and running game are going well, Flacco and Romo play well. It is as simple as that.    

The Ravens still need to make a decision if they are going to sign Flacco to a long-term deal, use the franchise tag on him or let him walk.  Once that is done, they can look at who is available to come in to compete with Flacco -- or maybe a new quarterback altogether.

Just another Average Joe? You bet.

Matt F. in Chicago: So it's a tie game with roughly 30 seconds left in the fourth quarter and the Ravens have the ball with one timeout. My question for you: why not at least try a few plays before the end of regulation? A couple of nice passes and at least Justin Tucker could attempt to end the game right there. Does it show a lack of killer instinct when it counts?

Mike Preston: Harbaugh said he made the decision to kneel on the ball and try to win the game in overtime based on field position.  Can you really blame him?  From what the offense accomplished in the second half throwing the ball, what makes you think a couple of nice passes were coming?  That decision was based more on an attempt at self preservation rather than killer instinct.

Woody Campbell: Do you think the Ravens should have gone for two after their final touchdown? I think they should have gone for it. A successful conversion would have put the game away by putting them up by nine points. A failed conversion wouldn't have made a huge difference. If the Redskins got the momentum to score a touchdown, they were very likely to make the two-point conversion anyway.

Mike Preston: Woody, it is much more likely you are going to keep a team from scoring on a two point conversion than scoring on a two point conversion yourself. Every team has a sheet when to go for two and when not to. Stick to the script.

Bob Bingham: Do you feel Michael Oher would best help the team as a guard and not a tackle? He is built to be a good LG and not a tackle on either end of the line. He doesn't have the right size or quickness to play tackle effectively in the NFL. Move him inside and draft a tackle or sign a FA in the offseason. He is killing the team right now. Coach Harbaugh should be reprimanded for losing the Redskins game by refusing to play McKinnie at LT.

Mike Preston: As discussed last week in the Q&A, Michael Oher has shown that he is more suited for the right tackle position than left tackle. The Ravens need to make some major adjustments across the board on the offensive line in the coming offseason.  The Ravens would have benefited Sunday from keeping in a tight end or running back to help block rather than going four and five wide on several occasions  when it was obvious the Redskins were sending blitzes.   

Bryant McKinnie landed himself in Harbaugh's doghouse by showing up overweight and out of shape this past offseason. Once you are in the doghouse, it is very hard to get out. I would suspect that McKinnie is not in much better shape at this point due to lack of playing time in both the games and practice.

One other thing: Oher is not as bad as some think. Flacco could help him tremendously by stepping up in the pocket and getting rid of the ball. Remember, the left tackle is playing against the other team's top pass rusher. He is going to get beat once or twice a game. It's not an easy job.


Eric in Jacksonville: Do you think the return of Ray Lewis -- if indeed it occurs -- will be a boost to this team, or is the D so injury-depleted and consequently lacking in talent that it won't matter much? 

Mike Preston: Lewis will play as soon as he is able to, and I assume that will be this weekend against the Denver Broncos.  

I doubt that he will be a boost to the on-field product of the defense. The stats don't lie, and the Ravens defense got better with Lewis out of the lineup. However, with all of the injuries suffered by the linebacking corps recently, Lewis may be the only true middle linebacker available this weekend.


Richard: Torrey Smith has virtually disappeared from the offense. Jacoby Jones HAS disappeared from the offense. Why/how???


Mike Preston: There is a laundry list of things that have led to Smith and Jones disappearing from the offense.  Poor play calling, poor offensive line play, poor throws, etc, etc, etc...

Robert Sullivan: Boller or Flacco? Not as easy a choice as it once was, is it Mike?

Mike Preston: Robert, when you look at the time periods that the Ravens have had Kyle Boller and Joe Flacco as their starting quarterbacks, two things are very easy to see. The Ravens succeeded when they had a dominant defense and a running game that could carry the offense. Boller and Flacco are successful when that is the case.

I think both Flacco and Boller have similar weaknesses that show up in different forms. Both players show a lack of consistency, accuracy, pocket awareness and ball security. When these weaknesses show themselves in Flacco, he slows down, holds onto the ball too long and his accuracy suffers. When Boller showed his weakness, he sped up, often tripped over his own feet or those pesky white lines and his accuracy suffered. It is more a choice of how you prefer your comedy of errors to occur. I preferred to watch Jamal Lewis, and now watch Ray Rice, run the ball and lead the Ravens to victory.

But Flacco at least has some grace and is still a good quarterback in this league. He has been to the AFC championship game twice in five years. This is still a no-brainer to me. I look at the records and Flacco is an easy choice over "My Man" Kyle Boller.

Tom Ireton: The Ravens got outplayed and outcoached against the Redskins. Mike, can you really see the Ravens beating either of the Manning brothers in the next two weeks?

Mike Preston: The only Manning the Ravens might be able to beat is father Archie. Nope, it is going to be a long couple of weeks for the Ravens, but miracles still exist.

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